Out and About

Presidential China Selections from an extraordinary gift to the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Robert L. McNeil Jr. Collection of American Presidential China, are on view in an ongoing exhibit at the museum. The collection of more than four hundred and fifty pieces designed for, and used by, presidents from George Washington to Ronald Reagan provides a material record of the history of the...
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Pennsylvania’s Slavic Hero: Judge Blair F. Gunther

Thousands of Slavic refugees and their descendants who have carved out a better life in the United States may owe their lives to western Pennsylvania’s Judge Blair F. Gunther (1903-1966). After Poland faced horrific Nazi brutality during World War II and the murder of thousands of the country’s army officers by the Soviet secret police, Gunther fought to expose the atrocities and...
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Bookshelf

Sweet William: The Life of Billy Conn by Andrew O’Toole published by the University of Illinois Press, 2008; 253 pages, cloth, $32.95 An Irish working-class hero of Pittsburgh, William David “Billy” Conn (1917–1993) captured the hearts of his contemporaries with his stellar boxing record, ebullient personality, and good looks. A lightweight boxing champion, Conn had defeated nine current or...
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James A. Finnegan (1906-1958)

At the 1956 Democratic Convention in Chicago, former President Harry S. Truman greeted Philadelphian James A. Finnegan (1906–1958) and asked how he was. “Very good,” replied Finnegan. “I hope it isn’t too good!” Truman quipped. Truman had endorsed New York Governor William Averell Harriman for the Democratic nomination for president. Finnegan served as campaign manager for former Illinois...
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“Atoms for Peace” in Pennsylvania

In 1957, Shippingport, along the Ohio River in far western Pennsylvania, became home to America’s first commercial nuclear power plant under President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s “Atoms for Peace” program. Just two decades later, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) converted the Beaver County plant to a light water breeder reactor that successfully demonstrated the feasibility...
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From Erie to Antarctica

For nineteen-year-old Eagle Scout Paul Allman Siple (1908–1968) of Erie, wintering over in Antarctica was perhaps the ultimate, yet seemingly unlikely, merit badge. He had completed his first year at Allegheny College, founded in 1815 in Meadville, Crawford County, when a fellow Boy Scout asked him if he was entering the contest to be the Scout who would accompany Commander Richard E. Byrd...
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Bookshelf

The Realignment of Pennsylvania Politics Since 1960: Two-Party Competition in a Battleground State by Renée M. Lamis published by the Penn State University Press, 2009; 398 pages, cloth, $65.00. The political party system in the United States has periodically undergone major realignments at various critical junctures in the nation’s history. The American Civil War boosted the Republican...
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Jimmy Stewart’s Wonderful Life Began in Pennsylvania

It’s Christmas Eve 1945 in the small town of Bedford Falls. George Bailey, president of the Bailey Building and Loan Association, stands in despair at the edge of a bridge wishing he had never been born. An unscrupulous competitor, Henry F. Potter, has threatened to shut down the financial institution and see Bailey thrown into prison on the pretense of stealing the townspeople’s money. In fact,...
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